Women’s Sports Foundation Leadership, Athletes and Advocates Gather in Washington D.C. to Celebrate the 37th Annual National Girls & Women in Sports Day®

The Foundation’s events feature its new research - revealing the protective power of sport during the COVID-19 pandemic - while continuing to advocate for Title IX on the heels of the landmark law’s 50th anniversary.

Published on February 1st, 2023

New York, NY (February 1, 2023) — Gathering in the nation’s capital, the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF) is uniting champion athletes, coaches, leaders and women’s sports advocates to ring in the 37th Annual National Girls & Women in Sports Day (NGWSDTM), a national day that is powered by WSF. Today on Capitol Hill, WSF is taking part in congressional meetings and holding a briefing to discuss the connection between well-being and sport participation for girls and women, and policy items needed to advance gender equity in sports. Yesterday, WSF along with its National Partner Delta Air Lines, hosted a multi-sport clinic and athlete panel discussion for D.C.-area youth at Howard University, and held a mental health convening alongside Signature Partner TIAA. Following last year’s 50th anniversary of Title IX, NGWSD serves as a call to action for future generations to understand their rights to equal access and opportunity, and the vital need for this important law to be protected and built upon to fulfill its promise for All girls. All women. All sports.®

WSF’s report, 50 Years of Title IX: We’re Not Done Yet, released last year, showed that girls’ participation in high school sports is nearly 12x higher than it was in 1972 – yet girls still miss out on an estimated 1 million sport opportunities at the high school level compared to boys. WSF’s new research report released today, The Healing Power of Sport: COVID-19 and Girls’ Participation, Health and Achievement, found declines in sport participation during the pandemic have further exacerbated the gender inequity in sport, especially for those most marginalized. The new report shows during the first full year of the pandemic, teens’ sport participation declined from 76% in 2019-2020 to 70% in 2021, which translates roughly to a loss of 1 million sport participants in U.S. high schools. The report also reveals teens’ sport participation was a protective factor against the negative impacts of the pandemic, showing that girls who kept playing reported higher levels of self-esteem, lower levels of loneliness and depression and had a more positive self-perception of their academic achievement goals.

“We have seen remarkable strides in girls’ and women’s sports participation since NGWSD began 37 years ago, but as WSF’s latest research shows, the declines in sport participation triggered by COVID-19 could have profound generational impacts unless we advocate for immediate action,” said WSF CEO Danette Leighton. “We are in our nation’s capital to work with lawmakers, leaders and allies, to help ensure that girls and women have equal and equitable access to sports. Title IX helped open many doors, but there’s still more work to do.”

The elite athletes and women’s sports advocates joining WSF for this year’s NGWSD events include: WSF President and 3x Olympic medalist in ice hockey, Meghan Duggan; Olympic gold medalist in track & field, Benita Fitzgerald Mosley; Athletes Unlimited athlete and former Team USA softball player, Courtney Gano; 2x Paralympic medalist in swimming, Sophia Herzog-Gibb; Paralympic bronze medalist in swimming, Anna Johannes; 2x Olympic gold medalist in basketball, Angel McCoughtry; Hall of Fame Women’s Basketball Coach, Muffet McGraw; and former NWSL Washington Spirit player, Gaby Vincent. Several will be participating in today’s Capitol Hill briefing, sharing their own unique Title IX and athletic experience to highlight the need to build on the landmark law. The briefing will be livestreamed on WSF’s YouTube channel at 1:45 p.m. ET.

This powerful group joined the Foundation’s Athlete Ambassador Program, held in partnership with Delta, in a sports clinic at Howard University yesterday, where they welcomed D.C.-area girls between the ages of 10-14 years old. The girls enjoyed playing multiple sports, including basketball, lacrosse, and softball, and listening to an influential panel conversation with the athletes who talked about the importance of NGWSD, shared their passion to play sports and encouraged the girls to always follow their dreams and stay active. Several also participated in The Equity Project convening, with Signature Partner TIAA, to talk about WSF’s latest research and share best practices to support mental health and well-being of all athletes – at the youth, high school, collegiate and elite levels of play. Through greater awareness, understanding and conversation, WSF seeks to better recognize the role that mental health plays in sport and prioritize it in the communities they serve.

“As an elite athlete, I know that both Title IX and mental health play a critical role in an athlete’s athletic journey,” said Duggan. “I am thrilled to join the Women’s Sports Foundation for NGWSD, using each event to foster meaningful conversations and advocate for change. Together, we are building a brighter future so athletes participating in all levels of sport receive the tools they need to remain active and thrive without barriers.”

Learn more about NGWSD on WSF’s website. You can view a map of events taking place across the country and read stories from professional athletes, student-athletes and coaches sharing their view on the impact of sports.

About National Girls & Women in Sports Day

National Girls & Women in Sports Day (NGWSD) began in 1987 as a special day in our nation’s capital to recognize women’s sports. The day united premiere organizations and elite female athletes to bring national attention to the promise of girls and women in sports. In 1987, NGWSD also served as a remembrance of Olympic volleyball player Flo Hyman for her athletic achievements and dedication to promoting equality for women’s sports; Hyman died of Marfan’s Syndrome in 1986. NGWSD has since evolved into an event to acknowledge the accomplishments of female athletes, the positive influence of sports participation and the continuing struggle for equality for women in sports. NGWSD is powered by the Women’s Sports Foundation, supported by its team of champion athletes and celebrated throughout the year by schools and community-serving organizations across all 50 states. Learn more here, and follow the hashtag #NGWSD2023 on social media.

About The Women’s Sports Foundation

The Women’s Sports Foundation exists to enable girls and women to reach their potential in sport and life. We are an ally, an advocate and a catalyst. Founded by Billie Jean King in 1974, we strengthen and expand participation and leadership opportunities through research, advocacy, community programming and a wide variety of collaborative partnerships. From its inception to Title IX’s 50th anniversary in 2022, WSF has invested over $100 million in these impact efforts, helping to shape the lives of millions of youth, high school and collegiate student-athletes, elite athletes and coaches. We’re building a future where every girl and woman can #KeepPlaying and unlock the lifelong benefits of sport participation. All girls. All women. All sports.® To learn more about the Women’s Sports Foundation, please visit www.WomensSportsFoundation.org.

Media Contacts:
Patty Bifulco
Women’s Sports Foundation

Kandice Miller
Women’s Sports Foundation